Creating a Holiday Photobook

This is an excerpt from my course - From Chaos to Keepsake


The holidays are fast approaching. The truth is a photo book probably won't be the sexiest item under the tree but it most certainly will be the one that is used and love and cherished for a long time. I think in most houses photo books are the items that are one of the most loved items in any home, really.


If you're making a holiday book don't overthink it. If you follow my tips below it will take an hour.


First things first - the building blocks of telling any good story is always told in the same way. Loosely put it starts with an introduction, what the story is about and then we wrap it up with a tidy bow. Photo books are the same way.


My approach to design for this course is oversimplified. My goal with each book is not to have the most beautifully designed book - my goal is to tell the story I’m trying to tell beautifully. There is a big difference.


My goal for each book is for every page to act as a way to connect with my reader. Whether it be an interesting photo that sparks an emotion or better yet a story that takes you away from the book altogether and headfirst into remembering and reliving that wonderful moment. As the storyteller, I only include photos that I love (notice how I didn’t say compositionally beautiful and perfect). In part that is done when you choose the photos.


If our goal is to choose photos that we love - the emotions will naturally after that.


If the thought of laying out a book gives you hives - I have great news for you - most programs will do it for you. When you click on the button that reads - auto fill - it will make your book! That’s it. Click order and take what you get. If you did a great job culling your photos you will love your book - it really is that simple.


However, if you want to make your own books here are my top design tips:


Tip 1: Follow the layout the bookmaker has created for you. It’s been made by a wonderful designer who has studied how to make a book. Starting to tinker will make the process take MUCH longer. Below you’ll see examples of how I layout books.


Tip 2: When laying out your images, consider how you pair, or bundle, them together. For example, if your subject is looking at the camera like my nephew is above, I like to balance it with a landscape or a photo that’s further back. Think of each two page spread as a single unit.


Tip 3: Keep like events together - if you’re making a wedding book the posed images of the bridge and groom should not be scattered through the book - keep like events together. It’s confusing to your reader. Don’t overthink it too much but if I saw a bridge posed shot at a creek and then again in other spots it would be like rereading the same page of a book. It’s strange.


Tip 4: Sometimes I get a little camera happy and take a bunch of images that I love or expressions of my little ones that I love and I don’t want to make a decision between one and the other. This is where classic mosaics work really well.


I did take a bit of time rejigging the images so that similar photos weren’t next to one another. They are similar, but each of the images is clearly illustrating a different activity from the same event.



Tip 5: Try to group like images together, as I’ve demonstrated in this (silly) spread below. On the right, I tried to visually balance my feet mixed up with my little guy’s. It captures a moment that makes my heart happy because he was four and with each passing day he’s less inclined to cuddle up with me. And having the foot shot balanced by a headshot on the left provides some nice symmetry.




Tip#6: If you find that following the company’s layout takes your photos out of order, I say don’t sweat it and go with it, unless having a timeline is really important to you. Remember the purpose of your book is to capture the moments; not necessarily to tell a story in perfect chronological order.


Tip #7: I don’t recommend including a lot of words or captions in your book. For me, these are picture books and I want my family’s imagination to tell the story of our holiday. Also, in one of my earlier books, I made a spelling error and it drives me crazy but I’ll never reprint it because, well, I just won’t.

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© 2020 by Emily D.